Of all the nations travelling to China for this year’s Hockey Champions Trophy, one team in particular is determined to bring home the trophy and seal their reputation as the dominating nation at this event in recent years.
Since 2008. Argentina has won the Champions Trophy six out of seven times and on the one occasion they missed out on gold, they took silver [losing 1-0 to the Netherlands]. This puts Las Leonas on seven titles, with the Netherlands and Australia just behind on six titles apiece.
"You play the best teams in a very short period of time so it is intense and interesting. We would love to win that tournament."
Delfina Merino, Argentina
Both those teams will be equally determined to finish this tournament on a high. The Netherlands have the added pressure of continuing an unbeaten run in major tournaments that extends back to 2016, while Australia will want to get back to winning ways after a few years in a gold medal-winning wilderness.
But, for Argentina’s players, the Champions Trophy holds an added spice and sense of hockey history. Anyone who was lucky enough to be in the stadium in Mendoza in 2010 when Luciana Aymar retired will recall the noise and the passion of the fans as they applauded and celebrated their hero.
It is moments such as these that have helped place the Champions Trophy as one of the most popular hockey events in the international calendar, as Argentina’s captain Delfina Merino explains: “The Champions Trophy is the last event of this year so my hopes and expectations are to end the year in the best way possible.
“Every tournament we play, our mindset is always to take first place. But this is also so special because it is the last Champions Trophy and, for me, it is one of the best tournaments that FIH have ever run. You play the best teams in a very short period of time so it is intense and interesting. We would love to win that tournament. But the most important thing is to enjoy it as well. We will aim to bring the title home.”
At the previous Hockey Champions Trophy, held in London in 2016, it was another member of the Argentina squad who dominated proceedings. Carla Rebecchi was voted Player of the Tournament and was also top goal scorer, with seven goals to her name.
Her most memorable match in that tournament was against New Zealand, where the striker produced two astonishing field goals. In the final, Argentina beat their old nemesis, the Netherlands, and although the captain didn’t score, her work rate and intuitive passing was one of the factors that led to her team’s victory over the world number one team.
The current Hockey Champions Trophy is set to be the last, replaced by the FIH Pro League. Rebecchi is excited by the project of a global hockey league but says she will miss the Champions Trophy. “The Champions Trophy is a great tournament to play in because all the best teams in the world are there. It’s a tough tournament and very important for us in our preparations for other events and also to see how we measure up against other top sides.”
Argentina start the defence of the title with a match against Australia.
The 23rd Hockey Champions Trophy takes place from 17-25 November in Changzhou, China. For further information about the event, click here.